I knew when I accepted a review copy of this novel that I wasn’t the ideal reader for it. Not because it’s a YA novel, but because it’s not the kind of YA novel I normally read (Fantasy Dystopian, . . .). Still I accepted it because I thought it deserved attention. Kate Scott has chosen a hairy topic, one that deserves more understanding and one she knows better than most.
The narrator of Counting to D is 15-year-old Sam who has just moved from San Diego to Portland with her architect mother. Leaving behind best friends is hard. In her case even more so than in the case of other people because she has a special bond with one of her friends, Arden. Arden isn’t only her best friend she’s the person who opens a door for Sam, which would normally stay closed – the door to books and reading. Since they were little Arden reads to Sam. Sam is dyslexic and at the age of 15 she still can’t read any better than a 7-year-old. But Sam is unusually intelligent, a math whiz with an audiographic memory. She can memorize every book that has been read to her and make the most stunning calculations in her head. Math is her joy and her refuge. Whenever things get emotionally stressing, Sam curls up inside of her head, counting and calculating. At times she’s suspected to be autistic.
In her old school Sam was seen as too clever and too dumb at the same time. Leaving San Diego and going to a new school could be her chance to start anew.
The story which follows is one of hope and encouragement. Sam makes new friends, falls in love for the first time, takes baby reading steps and overcomes prejudice and biased thinking.
While not entirely my cup of tea, I must say, this was a cute, warm book with endearing characters. I would highly recommend it to discussion groups, people who know someone who is dyslexic, parents with dyslexic kids, teachers and, thanks to a special font, it’s a great choice for dyslexic kids too.
The most amazing thing is certainly that Kate Scott is dyslexic herself and that she wrote a novel is a message of hope for all the kids who try to overcome their illiteracy. I have never met a dyslexic person, so it was interesting to read about this. It’s a sad fact that even nowadays once students are labelled “special ed”, many of their co-students will think of them as dumb.
I have no idea how often dyslexic kids show the traits Samantha shows in this book. She’s a genius, only one that cannot read.
Counting to D, which will come out in February, is a cute and important book with a hopeful message.
Thanks to Mindbuckmedia and Elliott Books for the review copy
16 thoughts on “Kate Scott: Counting to D (2014)”
Doesn’t sound like something for me either, but sometimes those are the books that influence us the most.
Considering that it wasn’t really my thing I read it quickly and wasn’t bored. So that’s one thing.
It sounds like a good children’s book, but I can’t see myself reading it or what the appeal to an adult would be.
Making Sam a dyslexic who also happens to be a genius seems a bit of a cheat. I’m sure that dyslexics span the whole range of human intelligence and so some will be exceptionally clever, but it makes the story less typical of a more normal dyslexic experience (I’d guess, I’m not dyslexic myself). There’s a risk of the message being that dyslexia needn’t hold you back provided you’re otherwise better than the other kids, which doesn’t seem quite the right way to go.
Yes, that’s how I felt. I was wondering how a dyslexic with average talents would feel reading this. It’s clear however that her “superbrain” doesn’t help her at all to learn how to read, so I guess it just wanted to emphasize that being dyslexic had nothing to do with intelligence.
I didn’t feel I was the right audience.
I’m not the right audience either, but it sounds like a decent book. It would be so awful to not be able to read. I remember kids in school who had a terrible time and it was so embarrassing for them. For some reason our teacher always called on them.
Einstein, Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell were supposedly dyslexic.
Scott Fitzgerald as well, it seems. There are quite a few names in the book. I can’t imagine what it would be like but if you grow up that way?
It’s the stigma that is awful, the fact that they are seen as dumb.
Wonderful review, Caroline. I will keep an eye for this book. I haven’t read a book yet in which one of the characters is dyslexic. This book makes me remember a Hindi movie that I watched a few years back called ‘Taare Zameen Par’ (The Stars are on the Earth) in which the main character is a boy who is dyslexic and who is inspired by his teacher to read better and explore his artistic talents.
Thanks Vishy and thanks for the link. That might be an interesting movie to watch. It’s an important topic and I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about it before. I actually liked the love story. It’s cute.
I know people who have told me that they are dyslexic. It can really make life and reading and functioning in society challenging. Based upon your commentary this does sound very well crafted and very worthy read.
It’s instructive and entertaining, which could make it a great book for discussion groups in schools.
It must be so tough to be dyslexic.
Hello Caroline, and happy new year (rather late, sorry!).
I haven’t read this, and probably won’t, but there’s a very good British children’s author – and book illustrator – called Sally Gardner, who is dyslexic and didn’t learn to read until she was 14. One of her books, Maggot Moon, has a hero who is a boy with dyslexia. She might be more your cup of tea?
Thanks so much for the recommendation, Helen. I just had a look and it does sound like I’d like it.
Belated Happy New Year to you as well.
It’s good to know there are books out there like this. If it had been written a decade or so earlier, I could have recommended it to my neighbour, who has three children, all of them dyslexic to one degree or another. Two are now at university and a third is studying with a hope of doing medicine eventually, so it is possible not to let it hold a child back. Often this sort of book is for the teenagers who might mock and scorn their dyslexic schoolmates – I like to think of how attitudes can be changed by novels, which can be very powerful in their way.
That’s why I accepted to review it and because I was interested how she’d write about it.
Three dyslexic kids. What a challenge. I got the impression that there may be different degrees. I vaguely remember now that I knew someone, but he could always read, only he was very slow.
I thought it would be a good book to read in a school, especially if there are dyslexic kids.
It seems as though lots of YA and middle school books are very much issue-oriented–not that there aren’t also fluffy sorts of mindless reads, but I seem to read mostly about books like this. I guess at that age adolescents need that sort of reinforcement that whatever they are dealing with is normal and that other kids are dealing with it, too. I don’t read much YA (not that I don’t like it–just too many other books out there…), but this sounds like a good one.
I think it’s an importnat book.
Many YA books tackle issues, that’s true, mostly darker ones though (suicide, anorexia, cancer . . .). This was indeed almost fluffy.